With the sun shining in Norwich, England, I am reminded of the wonderful summer’s afternoon I spent in the Norwich Castle Gardens in 2016, watching an energetic and inspiring performance of the unique community play ‘Come Yew In’. Within the many stories of Norwich history told that day, it was the segment that retold Joe’s story in just a few moments that I had been waiting for. Using words from my book Escaping Hitler the talented performers paid tribute to Joe. I have posted this film before but I thought it worth another viewing.
Both Joe Stirling and I were saddened last week to hear of the sudden and premature death of Gottfried Busch, the honorary Mayor of the Parish of Nickenich, Joe’s birth place in the Rheinland. Herr Busch had been a member of the local council since 1989 and honorary Mayor (Ortsbürgermeister) since 1992. He was well loved in the village and followed this blog with a keen interest. It was Herr Busch who invited me to visit Nickenich in the May of 2016, five months after Escaping Hitler was published. We found him a delightful generous man, who welcomed us and offering us his hospitality. The photo shows Herr Bush and I following my presentation to the people of the village. A few weeks later I received a bulk order for the book, to be given out as gifts to visiting dignitaries. I was honoured to supply them to Nickenich Council. Herr Busch died on 17th May 2018, at sixty-nine years old. He leaves his wife Lydia and children Sebastian, Patricia, Marco and Leandra. Joe and I send our condolences to the Busch family and to the people of Nickenich.
Biographer Phyllida Scrivens and former Mayor of Nickenich, Gottfried Busch in Nickenich during May 2016.
As a former Sheriff of Norwich (1975-6) Joe Stirling, the star of Escaping Hitler: A Jewish Boy’s Quest for Freedom and His Future (Pen and Sword Books 2016), was naturally invited to the annual black-tie dinner of the Norwich Civic Association. This year I was also invited as the after-dinner speaker, to speak about my new book The Lady Lord Mayors of Norwich 1923-2017 (Pen and Sword Books, 2018). It was an honour and a privilege to address this most knowledgable of audiences! All seemed to go well and Joe enjoyed his evening immensely. Victor and I are now taking a well earned break for a couple of weeks. Back with more updates on Joe soon.
Phyllida and Joe at Civic Association Dinner, 23rd April 2018
Last evening, 26th January 2018 BBC Look East (Regional News programme) showed a short documentary created by Senior Reporter Mike Liggins, on the Kindertransport , featuring Joe Stirling’s story in his own words, using some of the photographs that appear in my biography Escaping Hitler. The piece is introduced by Stewart White and Suzie Fowler-Watt. For the full story of Joe’s remarkable life and his contribution to Norwich over seven decades, plus more photographs, check the Menu drop down for details on how to order your copy, signed by both Joe and me.
Just yesterday I was excited to find the irrepressible BBC Look East Senior Reporter Mike Liggins on the other end of my telephone!
In preparation for Holocaust Memorial Day he was off to visit and interview Joe Stirling and wanted to ask ‘his biographer’ for some facts and figures! I also emailed some of the photos from my book Escaping Hitler. When I see Joe tomorrow at the Holocaust Memorial Service at Norwich Cathedral I will ask him how it feels to be interviewed for BBC Television. One day….. Meantime, if you live in the Eastern Region do take a look at the film tomorrow night. The story will also feature on the Look East website over this coming weekend. The link is as below:
This photo shows Joe with the journalist from the now defunct Mustard TV when he was interviewed a couple of years ago. I imagine yesterday the scene was quite similar. Joe has just emailed to say that Mike was there with him for over two hours and insisted on help Joe to make a cup of tea. He sounds like a lovely man!
Quite by chance yesterday I came across this online review of Escaping Hitler on the U.S. site Momzinga (the American version of Mumsnet). I was so excited by Katie John’s unique spin on the story that I requested her permission to reproduce it on this blog. Some of the finer details are not exactly correct, but her opinion is loud and clear and for that I am grateful. Always good that one year on, American readers are still discovering Joe’s story.
ESCAPING HITLER; Enthralling, Amazing Story of The Boy Who Walked Out of Germany
by email@example.com (Momzinga.com)
ESCAPING HITLER—Should be required reading for every American child!
Besides having a great title, Escaping Hitler, written by Phyllida Scrivens, is an enthralling book. It starts out kind of dull with telling Gunter’s parents’ history. But then suddenly it becomes enthralling, reading page after page having to find out what happens to Gunter, a Jewish teen who walks out of Germany to a new life.
You will be amazed at how innocent people were back in the late 1930’s and 1940’s and how people are not like this today. So many people helped Gunter get out of Germany when Hitler’s men were rounding up Jews to put them in prison, beat them up, starve them and ultimately kill them. He leaves his parents behind at their urging and starts a new life at 14—alone!
Paralyzed with fear, I wondered how a child could walk, swim and take a train ride to a new life. I kept reading as fast as possible to find out what happens to Gunter Stern. It was so amazing to read how so many people openly welcome this complete stranger into their homes, helping him get out of Germany across the countryside. After he wades across a river, a German guard yells at him to get out of the water, and ends up helping this thin teenager. He literally allows the teen to stay at his home for a week and speeds along the process of getting him out of Germany by a train, where Jewish-German kids are placed with relatives or with total strangers, getting them away from the Nazi’s.
It was so unreal reading how trusting people were back then. Gunter ends up living in England as his parents are eventually taken away to a prison camp in Poland and killed. Gunter is an innocent fourteen year old who makes a new life for himself.
Scrivens’ numerous research has gone into this remarkable book telling exactly what the Nazi’s did to the Jews. At the beginning they took any male over 16 out of their homes and put them in makeshift jails. Gunter’s father thought this would never happen to him, because he was a WWI hero, but he was horrifically wrong. It is incredibly horrible learning exactly how the Germans go about taking control of their people. As I read I was horrified at what was happening, but I had to find out what happened. History repeats itself, so that is a scary thought, which propelled me forward.
It is remarkable how so many people helped Gunter and how respectful they were of him and how respectful he was of them. He lived in stranger’s homes, and he worked in fields and grew stronger eating a diet of healthy food. Escaping Hitler is a beautiful and unreal story of the ultimate horrible reality. Escaping Hitler is a story you will not soon forget, it is that brilliantly told. Momzinga.com.
Christmas Present Alert!
I don’t think I can ignore CHRISTMAS any longer!!! If you are considering gifts for the relative or friend who has everything, or someone who loves to read, especially if they are or have been Norwich residents, then Joe Stirling’s biography should be well received…. you can order a hardback copy, signed by both author and subject direct from me by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can take credit and debit payments on the telephone and I will package the book up safely, mailing it out by first class post. The price is £19.50 plus £4 postage and packing. I look forward to hearing from you! PLEASE SHARE!!